Dozens of Robins facilities eligible for historic registry

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th ABW/PA
Robins Air Force Base may have only opened its doors in the early 1940s, but it still has a story to tell - a story of more recent history, including life during World War II and the Cold War. There are places on base that spell out the fear Americans felt as they fought to win World War II and there are other places that house the technology developed as America feared an attack by the Soviet Union.

"Instead of looking at a building as simply old, look at it as unique and realize it has lessons to teach us," said Bob Sargent, Robins natural resources manager.

Of the more than 1,100 buildings on base, there are 26 eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Buildings can be designated as historic for many reasons including their significance to American history, architecture, archaeology and engineering. Other factors that make buildings historic are their location, design, materials used in construction and workmanship. Other things considered are the age of the structure. Although most buildings less than 50 years old are not eligible to be considered for the historic register, several buildings at Robins are eligible because of their association with the Cold War.

Because Robins was born as a World War II base, many of its historically significant buildings are part of the World War II era.

One of the relics of World War II resides on the flightline and is embodied in the large metal curtain rods that still sit above the windows in Bldg. 110, or the Operations Hangar, now known as Base Operations.

"The rails ran around the top of the building and they were for black out curtains in the '40s," Mr. Sargent said.

The blackout curtains were used to hide the maintenance repairs and other work housed in the building from aerial views.

Just beneath the large metal curtain rods begins rows of clerestory windows used to bring light into the industrial setting. The windows have been repaired over the years to prevent leaks, but the integrity of the building was kept intact by using a fa├žade to repair the windows allowing the building to keep its original look, Mr. Sargent said.

Just behind Bldg. 110 on the flightline sits Bldg. 125. Built in 1942 it boasts signs of recovery from the Depression.

"The art work on this building is all part of the new deal through the Work Projects Administration," said Bill Head, chief of the history office.

Not only is the art work courtesy of the Work Progress Administration, but the art is also the only examples of Art Deco design present on the base.

"It wasn't everywhere the Air Force or the Army Air Corp decided to use Art Deco elements on industrial buildings, said Stephen Hammack, a contract archeologist at Robins.

One of the stucco pylons was later the inspiration behind the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center emblem, Mr. Head said. The new emblem, which was adopted when Gen. William P. Hallin was the commander of the WR-ALC, allows the center to preserve the past, while embarking on the future, said Mr. Head.

It wasn't just Bldg. 125 on the flightline with WPA roots, Bldg. 110 was also designed by WPA architects.

"It wasn't just nuts and bolts architecture, it was artistic," said Mr. Head of the work done by the WPA architects at Robins.

Architects with the WPA also designed Bldg. 220, the original post headquarters, which today serves as administrative offices for the Air Force Reserve Command.

However, Bldg. 220 has an unusual connection with the original flightline construction.

Mr. Head said the flightline construction required the removal of so many trees that Lt. Col. George Keagin, pitched the idea to Colonel Charles E. Thomas, the first Robins commander, to buy a portable saw mill and use the timbers to build some of the buildings on base. Each timber was branded with an iron with the initials WAD, which stood for Wellston Air Depot, the original name for Robins Air Force Base before the town of Wellston and base were renamed in honor of Brig. Gen. Augustine Warner Robins.

Many of those timbers were used to construct Bldg. 220 and the brand could still be seen on the timbers for many years, said Mr. Head.

Another building that is important because of its place in history is the Crew Readiness Facility or Bldg. 12, which is symbolic of the Cold War Era.

The Readiness Facility, also known as the Alert Facility, was built in 1959 as part of the Air Force's Strategic Air Command facilities and was designed as part of a ground alert program where fully armed bombers and fuel-laden tankers stood ready for immediate takeoff from the Christmas Tree area of the flightline. Aircraft crews waited for the Klaxon or alerting device to signal them to rush to their aircraft and takeoff.

"From the mole holes they (Airmen) could run out to the planes at a moments notice," Mr. Hammack said.

When NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) said "scramble the SAC (Strategic Air Command), B-52s, put them in the air," the Airmen would immediately head to the planes and prepare to take-off," Mr. Hammack said.

Not far from the Alert facility is the ammunition storage area where several of the ammunition storage areas are eligible for the register because of their role in storing armaments such as for the B-52 during the Cold War.

Some of the other areas on base with historical significance are the first two housing districts built: Chief's Circle and Officer's Circle.

"It isn't just the age of these houses that make them significant, they have housed every commander over the generations from the very first one," Mr. Sargent said.

He said one of the most important things about the buildings on base being eligible for the historic register is that the structures have to be protected as if they were on the register. The buildings don't necessarily have to serve the same purpose such as the upcoming transfer of Chief's Circle from a housing area to an administrative area for the AFRC.

"We have to think of ways to do creative modifications to retain the buildings and still contribute to the mission," Mr. Sargent said.